Julian Clef started early on the piano, with books for teachers. Today the prodigy studies music in Manchester

I worried if the Baby Grand would survive the impact of his performance as he played a piece by Kapustin to show that all the hype that surrounded him was deserved. His fingers literally flew over the piano and I do not say this for mere effect. For the now 20-year-old Julian Clef however, Kapustin, Beethoven, Bach et al are daily conversations he has in the language he shares with the instrument that is, but an extension of him.

With books as guide

The alliance began at the age of five, when his father, a music teacher, set the ball rolling with the basics. Even when funds seemed to threaten his passion and compelled him to suffer from premature stagnation, he plied on with music books as his guide.

At the age of 12, Julian played for 12 hours at a marathon piano peace race in his native Thiruvananthapuram. “It is uncommon in India especially. Where I come from not many kids play and this, in a way, made me extraordinary,” says Julian. An Englishman, Dr. Celestine John and his wife Linda John watched him play and recognised his skill. They suggested that he return to England with them where his talent could be honed. It was then that he was accepted into the Chetham's School of Music in Manchester in 2006 and the music books were replaced by tutorials under the guidance of eminent pianists. “This was the first time I received any formal training in the piano,” says Julian. He was in Bangalore and other Indian cities recently giving concerts.

“It was difficult being alone in a new country, but it was the only opportunity I had,” he says. Although financing his education had been a problem, Dr. John and his wife started a trust fund in his name where donations were made by several piano aficionados who saw his potential.“Western classical music is my passion, and I want to be a concert pianist,” says Clef killing any suspicion I might have had that he would join the bandwagon of music producers in the country.

In some funny game Fate played with him, Julian Clef's career in music began from the time his father added “Clef” as his surname when he was born. The list of awards he's won is endless, but what stood out is the concert he played for the Queen. He has played for audiences in several countries, but his focus has not wavered and nor has his grounding, “My main aim is to play music,” he says firmly. Julian is currently training under Prof. Murray Mclachlan at the Northern College of Music in Manchester.

He's a man of few words and his humility and modesty are endearing. He possesses a pianistic and musical maturity beyond his years and he plays with a quiet confidence without distortions or flamboyance. Although he has lived most of his young adult life in England, his favourite sport is still cricket and the Indian team still enjoys his support.

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